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Everyday search is evolving, and Google has made adjustments to its product roadmap based on the shift in search behavior.
In my most recent Search Engine Land byline, I share how Google is responding to changing search behaviors. For example, Google is creating physical products like Android Wear, Chromebooks, and driverless cars. I also urge marketers to sense and respond to change just as Google is.
Image Credit: ampproject.org
Google has gone live with its Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project, which is an important development that pushes marketers toward embracing the mobile Web. According to Google, AMP is “an open source initiative that embodies the vision that publishers can create mobile optimized content once and have it load instantly everywhere.” In practical terms, AMP provides technical standards that developers can use to make Web pages load instantly on users’ mobile devices. Here’s a quick overview that breaks down AMP:
1. What is AMP all about?
First off, AMP is not an algorithm update. It’s an open-source framework for building mobile pages. AMP is first and foremost about improving the user experience on mobile devices due to how poorly optimized most sites are for mobile users.
As Greg Sterling reports (citing Yahoo data) in Search Engine Land, only five percent of mobile media time is spent with the mobile web, partly because consumers prefer apps owing to their better user experience. Google wants to address this imbalance by improving the mobile Web ecosystem that includes Google users, brands, and partners.
2. How is AMP improving the user experience on mobile devices?
3. Who benefits the most from AMP?
AMP is primarily going to be useful for publishing sites like blogs and newspapers for the time being. As The Guardian reports, AMP promises “to eliminate those excruciating seconds between tapping a link on your smartphone screen and being able to read an article on your favorite news website.”
And let’s not forget that Google benefits from AMP. Google wants to keep users on the open Web, Googling content on our mobile devices and then consuming that content — instead of using walled gardens such as the Facebook mobile app or Apple News.
4. Is AMP another Mobilegeddon?
5. What should marketers do about AMP?
Google wants to see an efficient and useful mobile Web. If you are a brand marketer, the question isn’t “should I be using Google AMP?” but “How can I improve the mobile experience?” As I wrote recently in Search Engine Land, Google is inventing the future of location marketing in many ways — and creating a mobile “near me” future is one of them.
The SIM Partners Velocity platform is well suited to manage location marketing content in the mobile universe. Contact us to learn how we can help you.
Think of a time when you have been in a new city, and have wondered where the closest restaurant or ATM is. With mobile playing a critical role in our lives, most people turn to their devices in that moment to find a location that’s closest to them.
Luckily for us Google is now autocompleting “near me” on mobile and desktop for many branded and non branded categories. In my latest Search Engine Land byline, I share how by doing this, Google is responding to what consumers want in our mobile era. I also discuss how Google is shaping the future of search through developments such as Mobilegeddon and the release of the Google My Business API.
Brands have to be sure to stay ahead and be ready for change. Do you have questions on how to ensure your brand is visible for near me search results? Connect with me, I’d love to discuss.
Google is now making it easier for consumers to find what they are looking for nearby by autocompleting “near me” for keywords traditionally associated with local search.
Google serving local results for queries isn’t new — location is a key piece of context the algorithm uses to generate relevant search results. As Google reported last year, “near me” search interest has increased 34 times since 2011 and more than doubled last year alone.
But what is clear is that when it comes to search, “near me” is the new normal.
In 2013 when Google’s Local Carousel rolled out, I looked at 54 keywords that triggered carousel results. With Google autocompleting “near me,” I decided to do a similar analysis of some non-branded terms.
Below is a list of 135 keyword terms that I tested both on desktop and mobile — over 90 percent autocompleted “near me” on desktop searches and 78 percent autocompleted “near me” on mobile.
Queries Triggering “Near Me” Autocompletes on Desktop and Mobile:
home improvement store
real estaste agents
Queries Triggering “Near Me” Autocompletes on Desktop Only:
Queries Triggering “Near Me” Autocompletes on Mobile Only:
Queries We Were Surprised That Didn’t Trigger a “Near Me” Autocomplete Suggestion:
mortgage loan officer
A couple of quick takeaways:
- “Near me” is a given on mobile. When people search for something like “movie theater” on a mobile device, Google automatically dials up the location aspect of the algorithm to a point that the difference between the set of results returned with or without “near me” is negligible.
- The algorithm is discerning intent. Some of the keyword “near me” autocomplete variances are classic examples of Google’s ability to discern intent. For example, if a consumer searches “movie theatre,” they are most likely looking for the theaters that are closest to where they are in that moment in time — but if someone searches “DVD,” the algorithm can discern that they probably aren’t looking for the nearest dvd to them.
Google is clearly looking to provide searchers with the most relevant results as possible, and location is a key piece of context that can drive relevance. To be visible in “near me” moments of search, brands should actively manage and distribute their location data — including name, address, and phone information as well as store hours of operation — to Google via the new Google My Business API, as well as other data amplifiers.
As the world becomes increasingly mobile, consumers expect to get what they want anytime, anywhere. Brands need to actively manage their location data to ensure they are there where and when people are searching.
Are there any other keywords you’ve seen this for? Connect with me, I’d love to discuss.
Apple’s iOS 9 has made Apple a more compelling platform for “recovery search,” or searches that are done to recover information about a business that a consumer has visited already. In my latest Search Engine Land column, I discuss the opportunity for enterprises with multiple locations to make themselves more visible by capitalizing on Apple iOS 9’s recovery search capabilities. Consumers are going to rely on their mobile phones to search for what they want in the moments that matter most. How will your brand respond? Read my column and let’s discuss your own strategy.
Image Credit: Apple Insider
Image Credit: Search Engine Land
Just when you think Google can’t become more powerful, along comes its recently announced relationship with Yahoo to remind us of Google’s influence. As you have probably heard by now, Google and Yahoo struck a nonexclusive deal in which Google will provide search ads for Yahoo’s search results, and Yahoo can run organic search results through Google, not just through Bing. The relationship between Google and Yahoo underscores why enterprises should view a handful of influential publishers such as Google as the foundation to amplify their own local reach.
One of the most significant aspects of the Google/Yahoo agreement is that Google is providing search ads for Yahoo search results. Yahoo used to display Bing ads exclusively with its search results, owing to an agreement between Yahoo and Microsoft. But earlier in 2015, Yahoo negotiated a new Microsoft relationship that permitted Yahoo to have more say in its choice of ad providers. The Google/Yahoo deal shows how aggressive Google has been to capitalize on Yahoo’s desire to monetize search more effectively. The Google/Yahoo partnership gets AdWords back into Yahoo results so that Yahoo can better monetize the diminishing search traffic Yahoo is receiving. Consequently, local marketers will likely soon be able to target consumers using Google’s AdWords platform — thus enriching the tools at their disposal.
Google has exerted more influence with organic search results as well. Bing used to be the exclusive provider of organic search results for Yahoo, but the renegotiated Microsoft/Yahoo relationship also opened up the door for other platforms to provide organic results — and Google waltzed right in and became one of those platforms. Now, Yahoo has more choice to route organic search queries to both Bing and Google. It is not outside the realm of possibility that Yahoo will attempt to mash up Bing and Google organic results, but such a scenario feels unlikely. Expect Yahoo to test performance when serving up the two different search results and using the data set that provides a better search experience and more revenue. The data set could very well vary based on factors such as the type of query or the device being used to do a search.
The Yahoo relationship certainly casts a spotlight on Google’s influence, but obviously Google isn’t the only major publisher in the industry. Google may have muscled in on Bing’s turf with Yahoo, but on the other hand, Bing is the default search engine for Apple’s Siri voice-activated assistant, which gives Bing an advantage with voice search. And of the major publishers — Apple, Bing, Facebook, and Google — are main players for amplifying an enterprise’s location data. I advise clients to:
- Take another look at your local marketing strategies — in particular, your location data strategies — and assess the strength of your relationships with the major publishers as well as aggregators that supply data to them. How have the importance of sites providing citations shifted in the local ecosystem? Should your strategy shift with them? The same players redefining the search landscape are also changing local marketing, especially by making it more essential that businesses partner with them to amplify their location data. The major publishers should form the foundation of your local marketing partnerships, complemented by relationships with smaller publishers in key verticals.
- Assess the breadth of your local marketing beyond search. The Google/Yahoo news is all about search, but the influence of the major publishers goes beyond search to touch all aspects of local marketing — as noted, by making location data more important.
The big players are shaping the future of local marketing through the relationships they form and the innovations they develop. Contact us to explore the impact of the Google/Yahoo relationship has on you.
Google just reminded enterprises how important it is to ensure that their location data is ready for the holiday shopping season. On November 2, Google announced that businesses can pre-schedule on Google My Business specific hours for holidays and special events. The feature is a boon for businesses that want to make sure that shoppers know about their expanded holiday hours of operation. The news is also a reminder for enterprises to ensure that their location marketing strategies for the holiday season treat location data as a scalable asset.
In its announcement, Google illustrated how it will display special hours for businesses that schedule them:
Businesses that take advantage of the feature will be better equipped to take advantage of “near me” moments when shoppers are looking for holiday gift ideas or places to find what they want. It’s fitting that Google used a mobile phone image to illustrate the search result. A recently published survey from marketing technology provider Signal indicates that nearly seven out of 10 consumers will browse more frequently from smartphones or tablets than they did last holiday season, and 60 percent said they plan to buy more often from their phones or tablets.
According to e-tailing group, the Number One way U.S. digital shoppers were using their smartphones while holiday shopping last year consisted of looking up store information such as hours and location. Shoppers expect retailers to offer expanded hours of operation during the holidays, but those hours vary from store to store — and region to region if you operate hundreds and thousands of stores. You need to be ready with a listing management plan. Your plan should answer a number of questions, such as:
- Are the names, addresses, and phone numbers (NAP) for all my stores accurate?
- Do all my local pages reflect my expanded hours of operation?
- Have I communicated any changes to my NAP data and hours to the data amplifiers (such as Acxiom, Factual, Infogroup, and Neustar Localeze) that share my directory information with search engines, apps, GPS providers, and other location directories?
Adding holiday shopping hours is especially challenging for large retailers such as Target and Walmart, which offer multiple services in addition to selling merchandise. We call such retailers “containers” because they might have dozens of unique and related businesses within them. A Walmart might offer multiple services such as a walk-in clinic, a bank, a gas station, tire and oil change, a vision center, and a pharmacy. Although the store itself might offer expanded holiday hours, the pharmacy and vision center clinics might not. A consumer’s motivation for visiting these retailers might be radically different from one day to the next during the holiday season: needing a prescription filled on Tuesday, and wanting to buy toys on Wednesday. The retailer needs to make its hours of operation absolutely clear for all its services to satisfy its customers’ many needs.
The SIM Partners 2015 Holiday Retail Guide discusses the importance of supporting your holiday retailing game plan with a strong location marketing strategy, including how you employ location data. To attract more customers this holiday season, check out a copy and talk with us.
Beacons have been a hot topic in location marketing for the past few years, especially after Macy’s launched 4,000 beacons in all its stores recently. But beacons are a means to an end: driving customers to the cash register. And mobile wallets are the key to succeeding with beacons. In my latest Search Engine Land I discuss why enterprises with multiple locations need to focus first on understanding how mobile wallets support their local marketing, and then consider whether and how beacons are the right fit. I also explore why GPS technology might be more appropriate than beacons depending on the needs of the enterprise. Along with how mobile wallets relate to beacons, and the role they will play in the future of local marketing.
Has your organization stated testing beacons? Have you tried a mobile wallet offer? Connect with me. I’d love to hear your feedback.
While many of us were trying to make sense of Google’s recently announced restructuring, Google once again shook up the world of search. As we noted on our blog, Google scaled back the amount of real estate it provides for featured search results by rolling out its three-listing Snack Pack, which gives preference to the top three results instead of the top seven. The advent of the Snack Pack underscores the need for enterprises to practice sound search engine optimization (SEO) at the local level.
To recap: Google’s Snack Pack format highlights only the three top listings in search results, as opposed to the seven-listing format previously used. The three-pack takes a mobile-first design approach, whittling results to basic address, weblinks, and driving directions, as this example illustrates by revealing search results for “gyms downtown Chicago”:
There is no other way around it: the total amount of local and local organic listings on the first page of Google’s search results just dropped by almost a quarter, and some businesses are dropping out as a result. If you are concerned about losing search traffic in a post-Snack Pack world, here’s what you should do:
- Review your local organic search strategy. Why? Because if you were in the 4-7 spots of of the local pack, there is a likely chance that Google will send less traffic your way moving forward. So make sure you are following all best practices for optimizing your local business pages for organic search and continue working to build additional local links.
- On the other hand, don’t neglect to continue optimizing your Google My Business listings and creating additional citations, both structured and unstructured. The conflation of local and local organic signals continues; so ignoring one in favor of another is not in your best interest.
Incidentally, I suspect many businesses will notice a decrease in site traffic and onsite conversions attributable to Google thanks to the Snack Pack. The decrease is beyond the control of your own efforts to optimize for Google and SEO. Rather, Snack Pack listings now show fewer trackable links to websites. In the example I cited for a search for “gyms downtown Chicago,” Google reveals a website and links for the three businesses listed: East Bank Club, Lakeview Athletic Club, and Quads Gym. When you click on the website links, you are indeed taken to the websites for each business. But when you click on the other links associated with each name, you are taken to Google’s Local Finder:
Visiting this Local Finder is not a trackable action from the standpoint of your Web analytics.
So don’t panic if you see a dropoff in measurable Web traffic. The dropoff doesn’t necessarily mean that your local performance level is decreasing, but rather the trackable performance level from Web analytics is decreasing. Instead, look to other metrics like Google My Business reporting, call volume, and in-store visits.
We’ll continue to monitor the fallout from the Google Snack Pack and report our findings. Meantime, contact SIM Partners if you want to discuss implications for your business in more detail.
Image Credit: Startup Nation
Mobile is collapsing the customer journey, and businesses are responding with the launch of more on-demand services, a phenomenon I call the “Uber Effect.” As Uber has demonstrated, an enterprise can satisfy customers by empowering them to get what they want with one tap of their mobile devices. In my new Street Fight byline, I discuss how local businesses need to respond to the Uber effect in order to keep their storefronts competitive. I invite you to read the article and let me know your insights about ways businesses can drive more in-store foot traffic amid the rise of the on-demand economy. Connect with me. I’d love to discuss further.